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What managers should know
about ERP/ERP II
Hooshang M. Beheshti
College of Business and Economics, Radford University,
184 Radford, Virginia, USA
Purpose – This paper aims to examine the impact of enterprise resource planning (ERP) on
organizations and discusses critical issues that should be considered by managers and decision
makers who are considering implementing an ERP/ERP II system.
Design/methodology/approach – Extensive literature review and the author’s professional
experience on the topic provide the foundation for this article.
Findings – ERP/ERP II are designed to improve competitiveness by upgrading an organization’s
ability to generate timely and accurate information throughout the enterprise and its supply chain.
The goal of an ERP/ERP II is to integrate all business units of an organization and to create a system
that is capable of providing up-to-date and relevant information for the corporation’s decision makers
and employees as well as business partners. The investment that is required is significant, sometimes
running into the hundreds of millions of dollars and the decision to purchase and implement an ERP
system is one of the most important decisions a manager will have to make.
Practical implications – Implementing ERP systems often requires organizational change and
commitment by top managers. Participation by decision makers and executives from the acquisition
phase to the end is essential to the success of ERP/ERP II. Factors that managers should consider are
outlined in the study.
Originality/value – This paper provides useful information to both academicians and practitioners
who are interested in ERP.
Keywords Competitive advantage, Organizational change, Resource allocation,
Management strategy, Benefit-cost ratio
Paper type General review
Advances in information technology, expansion of the Internet and electronic business
as well as an ever-growing global competition have made running a successful
business more difficult than ever before. To remain successful and to be competitive,
managers of manufacturing and service organizations must use technology to improve
information flow, reduce costs, streamline business processes, offer product variety,
establish linkage with suppliers, and to reduce response time to customer needs and
Information and communications technologies have become major components of
the competitive strategy of many businesses. This strategic emphasis has made it
possible for managers to integrate information and communications technologies
throughout the organization and link all business units together. Corporate-wide
technology integration allows information users of the company to have access to the
needed information in a timely fashion and make intelligent decisions. Currently, a
popular approach to the development of an integrated enterprise-wide system is the
implementation of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, also called enterprise
Management Research News system.
Vol. 29 No. 4, 2006
pp. 184-193 An ERP system is a set of business applications or modules, which links various
# Emerald Group Publishing Limited business units of an organization such as financial, accounting, manufacturing, and
DOI 10.1108/01409170610665040 human resources into a tightly integrated single system with a common platform for
flow of information across the entire business. With the use of the Internet as a What managers
business medium, organizations can use the expanded version of ERP, ERP II, to should know
connect their internal business systems with the systems of customers and suppliers.
The purpose of ERP/ERP II is to enhance an organization’s competitiveness by
improving its ability to generate accurate and timely information for managerial
A review of the literature suggests that ERP systems are used by small, medium 185
and large corporations as well as government agencies and non-profit organizations. In
recent years a growing stream of research has focused on the competitive advantage of
ERP and the importance of considering the organization’s business models and core
competencies when making decisions for or against ERP implementation (Lengnick-
Hall et al., 2004; Davenport, 1998; Prahalad and Krishnan, 1999; Holland and Light
1999). ERP systems can provide management with cost and operational information
necessary to make strategic decisions concerning their competitive position. To take
advantage of the competitive capabilities of ERP systems, managers and employees
must understand the basic principles of ERP so that it can be used to its fullest
Commitment by management is necessary to the success of an ERP system. This
commitment needs to be incorporated into the business culture and employee
population through the use of training programs, team building efforts, and
recognition of each success.
The failure rates for ERP projects are relatively high and could lead to the
bankruptcy of the corporation. In 1994, Dell Computer began to implement an ERP
system- SAP’s R/3- to run its manufacturing operations. Two years later, the company
aborted the project claiming incompatibility with their business model. Allied Waste,
the second largest waste management company in the US, found the ERP
implementation too expensive and abandoned it. Applied Materials, the world’s largest
supplier of products and services to the semiconductor industry, claimed changes
required by the ERP system were too overwhelming to continue with the project.
FoxMeyer, a large pharmaceutical distribution company, filed for bankruptcy in 1996
claiming a failed ERP implementation ruined their business. Later, a bankruptcy
trustee for FoxMeyer sued both SAP America, Inc. and Anderson Consulting firm
blaming them for its financial ruin. The case was settled out of court (Mabert et al.,
2001; Davenport, 1998; Brickley, 1998).
To successfully implement an ERP system and to avoid failure, the firm must
conduct a careful preliminary analysis and develop a plan for ERP acquisition and
implementation. The most important success factors for ERP implementation include
top management support, effective project management, extensive user training, and
viewing ERP as a business solution. Factors such as inadequate technology planning,
user involvement and training, budget and schedule overruns, and availability of
adequate skills are considered reasons for ERP failures (Sumner, 2000; Umble and
Umble, 2002; Wright and Wright, 2002). This paper covers critical issues that
managers need to consider before investing in an ERP system.
Historically, ERP has its roots in the manufacturing industry and is the successor to
material requirements planning (MRP) and MRP II. ERP is the most recent in a number
of manufacturing and financial information systems that have been developed, over
MRN the last several decades, to synchronize the information flow with the physical flow of
29,4 The first step was taken in the early 1960s when manufacturers began to use MRP
software to organize information flow around the manufacturing processes. In the late
1970s the scope of MRP was expanded to include resources and MRP II software
became available. The focus of MRP II is on internal operations and provides insight
into the implications of the master production schedule and materials plan. Finally,
186 since the 1990s, software developers created ERP/ERP II software, a fuller suite of
applications capable of linking all internal processes as well as interorganizational
processes such as supplier and customer relations management.
ERP modules are integrated through a set of common definitions and a common
database. When data such as an order from the customer becomes available at one
point in the business, the impact of this information is immediately reflected in all
other areas, such as accounting, production scheduling, purchasing, and logistics.
Employees are able to view the order, locate the required items, decide on shipping
details and review the customer’s credit information on the same computer screen.
ERP systems are based on a value chain view of the business where functional
departments coordinate their work, focus on value-adding activities and eliminate
redundancy. In order to implement an ERP system, a company may need to make
changes to organizational structure, corporate culture, and business processes. ERP
can be a valuable tool for managers to improve operational as well as financial
performance of the firm. Long-term financial gains can be realized only when a
company delivers increased customer value while simultaneously lowering the cost of
delivering that value.
Benefits derived from ERP system implementation varies from one company to
another. However, there are some common benefits that all companies can receive from
the system. It is important that these benefits outweigh the costs of the system and
they should as long as the correct system for the organization is chosen and the system
is implemented properly. These systems can, in the long run, save millions of dollars,
an enormous amount of paperwork, and considerable hours of work.
Many organizations have several different legacy systems that have developed over
the years to meet their information needs for planning and decision making. Often,
there is little or no integration among departments and application programs used by
separate departments donot communicate with each other. This means that data has to
be entered into each separate department of the organization resulting in data
redundancy and at times inaccuracy. The same data is available but in a different
format making it difficult and time consuming to collect information and present a
coherent picture of what is happening in the business. ERP systems can virtually
eliminate the redundancies that occur from these outdated and separate systems. ERP
systems integrate various systems into one and data is entered into the system only
once. Because data is entered once, there are greater chances that it is accurate. If
inaccurate data is discovered, it can be corrected once instead of going through each
department for every change. Different employees can access data simultaneously in
ERP systems, whereas in separate legacy systems this is much less likely.
Process improvements are another important benefit of ERP. The common
denominator in every business is the processes performed to produce a product or
service. ERP systems require firms to examine their internal processes in order to
increase business efficiency and profitability. Firms manufacture their products or What managers
provide their services by performing a set of processes that create value. These
processes form a value chain. A firm is profitable if the outcome of the value chain
provides a service or product that can be sold for more than the producer spent in
product creation and delivery. By improving or reengineering business processes, poor
quality and the most costly areas of the operation can be identified and improved or
eliminated, thus increasing the value of the processes in the value chain. ERP/ERP II
implementation enables the organization to analyze the value chain as a system, from
supplier to firm to customer.
ERP systems generally come with standard applications centralizing the
information of separate departments into a common database. The use of a common
database and standardization of business applications provide companies with a
similar appearance and use of software programs. These programs become more
universal throughout the company. Standardizing the appearance and applications of
various programs that are used in individual departments can create greater ease of
use and improve efficiency. Whether a company is local or global, ERP systems can be
used to install consistent operating practices throughout the enterprise. Most ERP
systems have a customized browser that allows managers and employees to configure
their own view of the program. Managers can set-up access control preventing
unauthorized access by employees, customers, and business partners to sensitive
information. Companies with multiple locations can alter their ERP applications to suit
the needs of each location while sharing a core of common information.
Manufacturing and business organizations are not the only beneficiaries of ERP
systems. Many local, state, and federal government agencies as well as colleges and
universities are also benefiting from ERP systems.
The city officials of Pasadena, California decided to implement an ERP system in
1996. Before the implementation, it took the city 10 days per month to generate various
financial reports; ERP reduced this time to 1 day, leaving 9 days for other important
tasks to be performed (Ferrando, 2000). The state of Georgia’s Department of
Administrative Services spent a year and a half and $52 million dollars to implement
an ERP system. The system serves eighty agencies and 5,000 users. The
implementation reduced annual contract reviews from weeks to hours; audit
preparation time was cut by more than 50 per cent and financial information inquiries
can be done online in real time instead of weeks (Songini, 2000). The US government
plans, for the fiscal year 2009, to spend $7.7 billion dollars on ERP products and
services (Chabrow, 2004). Government contractors who do not have enterprise systems
and wish to stay compliant with government standards may be forced to implement
Colleges and universities such as the American University in Washington DC,
Dominican University of California, College of the Holy Cross of Massachusetts, and
Columbia College Chicago are using ERP to allow students to register and make
payments online; generate reports for top administrators; provide access to high school
counselors; track faculty teaching records; check instructor and classroom availability
for course scheduling; and enforce registration rules and conduct degree audits among
others (Savarese, 2003).
ERP is becoming a platform for electronic business, B2B and B2C, applications
allowing organizations to reduce their inventory costs and to better manage their
supply chains and customer relationship. Manufactures, suppliers, and retailers can
coordinate their activities and track items. Tracking items is a well-used and
MRN convenient benefit of ERP systems. By using bar codes or placing radio frequency
identification tags on items companies can find exactly where the item is in the value
29,4 chain, prevent theft, and determine its delivery time accurately so that the customer
receives the goods on time. Kohler Co., a large manufacturer of kitchen and bath
products, uses an ERP system to track items in the shipping process, solve problems
associated with orders, forecast monthly sales, and ensure on-time delivery of its
products (Bartholomew, 2002).
Organizational change and the costs of ERP implementation
ERP systems are extremely expensive to implement. Managers must carefully weigh
the costs and benefits of such a system to ensure if it is worth implementing. The costs
of an ERP system come in various forms and there are a wide variety of different costs
stemming from numerous areas both internal and external to the company. The cost of
ERP software is relatively small, ranging from 10 to 20 per cent of the overall
implementation costs (Mabert et al., 2001). Process reengineering costs, support costs,
training costs, data conversion costs, and the cost of changing information technology
architecture are just a few of the many expenses a company has to consider when
adopting an ERP system.
The cost of the ERP package varies among vendors and depends on the size of the
corporation, type of package, and the degree of customization and integration. Some
companies require more customized versions of ERP systems than others.
Customization increases the cost of an ERP package. The more advanced and
complicated the company and the system, the greater the cost. According to a study
preformed by the Meta Group, out of 63 companies examined, they found the average
total cost of a complete ERP system to be approximately $9 million. However, this
figure seems relatively low compared to many companies who spend hundreds of
millions on their systems (Leitch, 2002).
ERP systems costs include both fixed and up-front costs as well as recurring costs
that continue annually to keep the system running and updated as needed. There are
several primary fixed cost drivers associated with ERP systems. The majority of the
fixed costs of an ERP system include software costs, changes in the operation
environment, consulting costs, as well as implementation and integration costs.
Implementation of an ERP system often requires fundamental changes in the way
employees and functional areas do their wok. Support for change could be for two
(1) to remain competitive, or
(2) to gain advantage over the competition.
Clearly, top management must understand the scope of change when implementing an
ERP system. Noticeable change requires a strategic response that includes a collection
of factors such as the organizational structure, the strength of competitive position,
and the competitive environment of the industry.
One method of managing change effectively is the establishment of an ERP
planning and implementation team. This team is comprised of representatives from all
major functional areas and top management. Formation of a team provides a structure
for determining the impact of ERP on the organization. The team should develop a set
of priorities for ERP modules to be implemented. Involvement of the functional units
in the implementation process is particularly important since ERP applications
cross-functional unit lines. This participation facilitates implementation activities and
a sense of ownership in the system, which leads to further use of the technology. Top What managers
management participation during implementation ensures conformance to corporate
policies and procedures. In order to better determine the amount of change that an ERP
system requires and to ensure its success, often companies hire outside consultants.
Although there is no guarantee that the consultancy will be effective, these consultants
have considerable experience in specific industry and/or comprehensive knowledge
about certain software. Successful implementation of ERP systems at Marathon Oil,
located in Houston Texas and at Pratt and Whitney, headquartered in Longueuil,
Quebec, Canada are examples of effective change management and team efforts
(Stapleton and Rezak, 2004; Tchokogue et al., 2005).
Organizational changes always require personnel, both management and staff,
training and education and it is expensive. However, superior training of personnel is
imperative for the success of an ERP system. Employees will be asked to change the
way they perform their daily tasks. The new way of doing business will require
everyone to work together because the information of one business unit will be
dependant on the accurate entries by employees of another. Training is a continuous
process and it must be done during the entire implementation process of the system as
well as when the ERP applications are changed or updated.
Aside from all the fixed costs that are associated with ERP systems, there are also
numerous recurring costs that companies have to budget for each year in order to keep
the system running effectively. In addition to the initial purchase of the system, annual
support fees must be paid in order to keep continuous support from the vendor.
Operation and maintenance fees, technology upgrades, as well as project upgrades are
some of the recurring costs associated with ERP implementation.
Choosing, implementing, maintaining, and updating an ERP system takes an
extraordinary amount of time. Company time, time when other functions could be
performed, is a huge opportunity cost of ERP systems. Along with the time that it
takes to train employees and keep them up-to-date with the newest innovations within
their present system, it takes a lot of time to determine which system to choose,
implement the system and keep it running. It usually takes at least a year to implement
an ERP system. In some instances it can be shorter than that, possibly in smaller
companies; however that is extremely rare. In many cases it takes much longer than a
year for full implementation of ERP, sometimes as much as 3 years (Leitch, 2002). It is
very difficult if not impossible to quantify the opportunity costs associated with the
adoption of an ERP system. For this reason, quantifiable costs associated with an ERP
system have to be even more carefully weighed and comprehensible performance
indicators should be established prior to installation.
There are several methods that organizations can use to reduce the costs of
ERP systems. Some of these include using a single vendor solution, eliminating
customization, and outsourcing. By using a single vendor solution, rather than
integrating several different vendors for different purposes, a company can save money
in the long run. Due to ERP market consolidation, in recent years, large corporations
are more or less left with either SAP or Oracle ERP platforms. However, more choices
are available to small and midsized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs can buy their system
directly from a software vendor or indirectly through a value added reseller (VAR).
SME managers must decide whether to buy their system from a large vendor or a
smaller VAR. Large vendors offer more variety of modules and have considerable
resources for ongoing support and upgrades. However, these systems cost more and
have a higher degree of standardization requiring more change. Systems offered by
MRN VARs are more flexible and offer modules geared toward the needs of specific
29,4 industries and require less organizational change, thus reducing the overall costs.
Instead of buying, outsourcing can be a viable option for companies to reduce the
costs of an ERP system. Outsourcing allows the organization to convert fixed costs to
variable costs by leasing only the modules or suites they need. This option shifts the
cost of maintaining and upgrading the system to the vendor. Because the corporate
data is maintained at the vendor’s site, outsourcing requires a great deal of trust.
190 Because data entry is done via the Internet, controls and security measures must be
established to ensure data integrity and to prevent unauthorized access.
Vendor selection and implementation
Companies choose vendors for various reasons. Some choose a vendor with a superior
corporate image or being a market leader. Others predominantly look at the
functionality and the quality of the products and services offered for evaluating ERP
vendors. However, selecting the appropriate vendor is a long and important process.
The best approach to vendor selection is to form a study team. Individuals who are
familiar with various business processes as well as information technology and
management representatives should be on the team. If needed, outside consultants may
be hired on an advisory position to aid the team in the selection process. There are
different approaches to vendor selection. Some of these are:
. Limit the study to one or two vendors and their products and services. This
reduces the time required for the study. The main disadvantage of this approach
is possible elimination of the best system.
. Make a detailed study of all vendors. This reverses the advantages and
disadvantages of the previous approach.
. Make an overall survey and then limit the choice to one or two vendors. This is
probably the best approach. It is a compromise on the first two approaches.
Once the potential candidates are identified, the team invites proposals from them and
makes the final selection. Management at this point should be in position to negotiate
the contract for delivery and implementation schedules.
Enterprise wide projects, such as ERP, are costly and slow to implement. It requires
skillful planning and hard, dedicated work in executing the plan. The most important
step toward a successful ERP implementation is the selection of a project manager who
has a good understanding of the business and the technologies involved in the project.
The project manager should recruit the best managers and employees from every
department to ensure that the needs of all departments are considered. The team will
be involved in all aspects from the planning stages to the end. Executives ought to be
involved in the development of an implementation plan, be the driving force behind
every phase of the implementation, and resolve any problem encountered to secure the
A budget to cover the costs of implementation and a detailed schedule of activities
associated with ERP functions and modules from the start of implementation to the
end should be developed. Many activities can be going on simultaneously, some cannot
start before others are finished, some should be done as early as possible, and some
should be delayed. Project management tools such as a Gantt chart, critical path
method, or program evaluation review technique are useful to estimate project
completion time, evaluate progress, and signal delays. The budget for implementation
should be broken down into small enough elements to assure control of the expenses What managers
associated with the project.
There are several different methods that a company can use to implement an ERP
system. One approach to ERP implementation is the one time conversion from old to
new. In this implementation process the company removes the legacy programs and
immediately installs and begins the use of the new ERP system. However, this method
could be risky and difficult if the employees are not properly prepared and trained.
Another implementation method is the gradual replacement of legacy programs with
ERP programs. This approach is best suited for those organizations in which their
programs tend to be vastly different. In this way, within the individual units of the
organizations the ERP programs can be implemented in a piecemeal fashion, one at a
time, and then integrated with each other. Smaller organizations can choose to
implement an ERP system one module at a time and slowly, as the organization grows,
they can add more modules over time.
Throughout the implementation process, the team should keep the employees
informed about the progress of the project. A good way of communicating with
employees is the creation of a web page to provide information to and receive feedback
from them. Periodic e-mails and newsletters are also effective means of communication.
Along the way, executives should sponsor information sessions to pass on project
updates and at the same time, answer questions, and solicit input from employees.
Having an executive sponsor these sessions will indicate to the employees that the
organization is taking the ERP implementation seriously.
Employees should have an individual to go for information and problem solving.
This is where the team members can be most helpful to workers of their respective
departments. A help desk should be established for the employees to express concerns
during the preparation, implementation and follow up stages as well as resolve
problems once the system is in operation.
In today’s global business environment firms must be competitive in order to survive.
A popular method of using technology as a competitive tool by organizations is the
implementation of an ERP system. In order to take advantage of this technology, the
firm must analyze the nature of its particular industry and environment. Once the firm
understands where it needs to position itself within its industry, then it can determine if
ERP/ERP II is the right technology for maintaining or enhancing its competitive
The popularity of ERP is attributed to its ability to improve the profitability
potential of an organization by reducing the time and costs of completing business
activities. This system is particularly useful in providing management with the types
of information necessary for making critical decisions.
Managers of organizations, especially SMEs, who are concerned about the costs of
an ERP system, should view ERP as a potential investment that can reduce current
costs and reward the firm with a substantial return on the investment. The costs and
benefits associated with investing in business solution efforts such as ERP should be
studied to determine whether it is necessary for the company to invest in such a system
or can the improvements or changes in their current system be implemented in other
By performing a cost/benefit analysis about the entire process of adopting an ERP
system, the firm can determine whether the investment will pay off in the long run. It is
MRN the responsibility of the top management to form a team to study the feasibility of ERP
29,4 implementation and be a part of the decision process from the beginning to the end.
Because ERP requires a substantial amount of capital investment, the feasibility study
involves a greater degree of effort than the typical capital investment analysis. The
organization’s existing business processes, legacy systems, and the impact of change
on the organizational structure, corporate culture, and personnel are important factors
to consider during the study.
192 Before implementing an ERP system, such tactical decisions as vendor selection,
employee training, project management, consulting needs, and the implementation
method should be made. Regardless of the implementation method, implementation is
one of the initial steps in the use of an ERP system, and if this step is not performed
correctly the chance of success is greatly reduced.
Managers should consider ERP acquisition and implementation as a capital
investment decision with the following expectations:
. The ERP system is a business solution and not another IT project.
. There is a degree of uncertainty with ERP acquisition and implementation
because (a) it is hard to estimate the savings, and (b) it is difficult to anticipate
developments because of constant changes.
. The ERP has a greater impact on the organization than traditional system
. Intangible benefits of an ERP system are difficult to put into monetary terms.
. There is a definite emotional element in the implementation of an ERP system
because of the drastic organizational changes involved.
Outsourcing ERP applications can be a viable method of reducing the initial
investment needed for an ERP system. When considering outsourcing, managers must
keep in mind that it is not the ownership that is of paramount importance, but the
effective use of an ERP for increasing performance and profitability of the business.
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Hooshang M. Beheshti can be contacted at: email@example.com
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